Computer short-circuits Pimlico races

April 14, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Just a couple of weeks before track management wants to start supplementing its live daily cards with 20 or more simulcasts, the computer system that regulates the odds board at Pimlico Race Course malfunctioned yesterday, forcing the cancellation of two races.

It was the first major breakdown of the new Spectrum system since it was installed at the tracks by AmTote International Inc. at the end of January.

For about an hour, the few fans who stayed at Pimlico stood around waiting for the 10th race to begin after the cancellations of the eighth and ninth races were announced.

The odds boards went down at 3:59 p.m. and was repaired by 5:02 p.m. Post time for the last race was set at 5:20 p.m., about 20 minutes later than originally scheduled, but actually went off at 5:25 p.m.

Trainers who had horses in the eighth race took their runners back to the barn after keeping them in the paddock for 35 minutes waiting for technicians to repair the system. That race has been recarded as the seventh race on tomorrow's card.

"We went along [with management] as long as we could," said state steward John Heisler. "But we were concerned about the horses staying in the paddock as long as they did. It was getting almost time for the simulcast [of the Commonwealth Breeders Cup from Keeneland, which was televised as the ninth race] to begin when we canceled both races. We didn't know whether the board would get back up or not. We decided if we scrapped one race we might as well scrap the other."

General manager Jim Mango said later that the malfunction was caused by a breakdown in the computer hardware, located at the hub operation at Laurel Race Course.

"Before when we had problems it was in the software," he said. "This is the first time we've had a hardware problem and it makes us very, very worried. It's not just because of losing two races today, but because of all that we have on our plate in the upcoming weeks in addition to the Preakness [on May 15]."

Mango estimated that the breakdown cost the track about $250,000 in bets "as well as the commingling [revenue] we lost from the two races at the eight tracks that took our signal."

The track either refunded or will refund all money wagered on the two canceled races.

Many fans left after the cancellations were announced, but some who stayed took the breakdown in stride. Others did not.

Billy Thompson of Baltimore said: "How in the world are they going to run 30 races if they can't run nine?"

"No wonder people are going to a bunch of different tracks in the area. There are just too many problems here," said Bernard Stanton, who lives in the Medfield section of Baltimore. "Who wants to stand around for an hour and do nothing?"

NOTES: Alan Foreman, attorney for trainer Linda Albert, said he is appealing her case to the Maryland Racing Commission. Albert was fined $1,000 by the Pimlico stewards after she sold a horse that she did not wholly own and without being licensed as the authorized agent for her partner, Robert Chernov. The horse eventually ended up at the slaughterhouse. . . . Fighting Notion broke the coffin bone in his left front foot after winning the Fire Plug Stakes at Pimlico on Monday. He will be de-nerved in that foot and could resume training in a few weeks.

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